Lamont Weekly Report, March 29, 2013


    The first full week of spring has brought the welcome change that the Sun is once again in the sky for a majority of each day.
     I am sorry to report that Barbara Algert, a longtime member of the staff in Lamont’s Office of Purchasing, died on 18 March. Barbara worked on this campus from 1985 until 1997. An obituary for her appeared in the Rockland Journal News last week (
     The week was kicked off Sunday afternoon by a Lamont Spring Public Lecture by Sean Higgins on “Ships, scientists and the sea: Exploring Earth’s last frontier.” Sean’s well-attended talk was an overview of Lamont’s long history of seagoing expeditions to advance our understanding of the seafloor and submarine crust and mantle. A highlight was the world premier showing of a new video on Lamont’s Core Repository, entitled “Plumbing the Deep Ocean Floor” and featuring footage of Maureen Raymo, Jim Hays, Bill Ryan, and Pratigya Polissar ( Another lecture in the series will be given at Lamont in four weeks (April 21) by Emily Klein, and two lectures will be given on Thursday afternoons in Midtown by Adam Sobel (April 4) and Maya Tolstoy (May 16) (
    Maya received the good news this week that her promotion to Associate Professor with tenure in DEES has been formally approved by Columbia University. Please join me in congratulating Maya on passing this important milestone.
    This week marked an uptick in efforts by DEES to recruit the next cadre of graduate students for the department and Lamont. Over the course of the next several weeks, as many as 30 prospective students will be visiting the campus, meeting with staff and current students, and touring offices and labs. A note of appreciation is warranted to everyone who participates in the recruitment process. Our graduate students are a major source of innovation and discovery at the Observatory, and we all benefit if every student visitor leaves with strongly positive impressions of a campus that is at once intellectually stimulating, broadly collegial, and warmly welcoming to all those who seek a deeper understanding of our planet.
    The Langseth sailed from Galveston this week to conduct sea trials of a new and larger set of paravanes for the hydrophone streamers on its multichannel seismic system. Other Lamonters at sea include Bruce Huber, who recovered a deep ocean mooring this week on the Nathaniel B. Palmer; the mooring had been deployed in the Pacific two years ago by Xiaojun Yuan and others to measure ocean temperature, salinity, current, and sea ice thickness in an effort to understand the seasonal influence of El Niño–Southern Oscillation on Antarctic sea ice. David Gassier and Ted Koczynski from Lamont’s ocean-bottom seismometer team returned this week from an instrument recovery cruise off the coast of Chile. Graduate student Julius Busecke is in the salinity maximum region of the North Atlantic on the Sarmiento de Gamboa as part of the Salinity Processes in the Upper Ocean Regional Study (SPURS) experiment (; his daily blog makes for interesting reading (
    On Monday, Lamont hosted a delegation of oceanographers and paleoclimate experts from the Instituto Oceanográfico da Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil. Institute director Michel Mahiques, physical oceanographer Ilana Wainer, biogeochemist Márcia Bicego, and geochemist Rubens Figueira were given a tour of the Core Repository and several other campus laboratories. Discussions with the visitors centered on opportunities for exchanges of students and researchers between the two institutions and, in the somewhat longer term, for one or more collaborative research projects. A draft agreement for personnel exchanges is being iterated as a basis for follow-on discussions.
    Also on Monday, Art Lerner-Lam and I met with Michael Cheetham, Head of the U.S. Representative Office for the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF). The IUSSTF “promotes and catalyzes Indo-U.S. bilateral collaborations in science, technology, engineering, and biomedical research” through the funding of bilateral workshops, student internships, training programs, and collaborative research projects. The organization is seeking strong proposals to its programs, and Cheetham invited anyone interested from the Lamont community to contact him ( or to consult the IUSSTF website (
    On Wednesday, Lamont’s Strategic Planning Committee held its fifth meeting. Building on the description of the grand challenges for the Observatory that the committee prepared from input received at the Town Hall meeting in February and circulated three weeks ago, as well as community feedback received so far in response to that document, the committee discussed refinements to the architecture of the plan and distributed writing assignments for segments of the text.
    Louise Rosen, Art Lerner-Lam, and I continued to meet with individual members of Lamont’s Advisory Board this week to solicit their ideas on the Observatory’s evolving programs in development and communications. We met with Board member George Becker on Wednesday and Larry Lynn on Thursday. Frank Gumper, the chair of our Advisory Board, joined both meetings.
    On Thursday, the Earth Institute hosted a State of the Planet conference on the theme of “A World at Risk: Water Security.” Mark Cane participated in a panel discussion on water scarcity during the conference.
    In the news this week are stories about an article posted online in Geology by Heather Savage, Geoff Abers, and coauthors arguing that the magnitude 5.7 Oklahoma earthquake of November 2011 is likely linked to
the subsurface injection of wastewater from oil drilling (  A CNN story on an unusual pattern of circular holes in pond ice in upstate New York included scientific commentary by Tim Creyts and Andy Juhl
    Next week we will be treated to special lectures on three successive days. At The University Seminars 69th Annual Dinner Meeting next Wednesday at Faculty House, Wally Broecker will give the Tannenbaum Lecture on “What drives ice ages?” ( On Thursday evening at the AppNexus Auditorium on W. 23rd Street, Adam Sobel will give the second in Lamont’s Spring Lecture Series on “The science behind Sandy” ( And on Friday, Ellen Mosley-Thompson, a Distinguished University Professor and Director of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University, will give Lamont’s 17th annual W. S. Jardetzky Lecture on “Past and contemporary climate change: Evidence from Earth’s ice cover” (
    Until next week, I hope that you will join me at today’s colloquium, by Richard Stolarski of the Johns Hopkins University, on “Stratospheric ozone: How we came to understand its chemistry and response to perturbations.”